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collection of the
collection of the
I Nicolas GroUier de Serviere
Recueil d'Ouvrages Ciirieux de Mathematique et de Mecanique;
oil. Description du Cabinet de Monsieur Grollier de Serviere
Paris: Jombert, 1751
Made possible through
the kindness of Arthur Ross.
Cover: Giovanni Battista Passed,
Picturae Etruscorum in Vasculis, vol. 2
Rome: Johannis Zempel, 1767-1775
) 1985 by The Smithsonian Institution
All rights reserved
Library of Congress Catalog No. 85-71452
ISBN No. 0-910503-49-4
Photographs: Carmel Wilson and Scott Hyde
Typography: New Age Typographers, Inc.
Printing: Meriden Stinehour Press
When the Museum was first opened to designers,
students, and the public at Cooper Union in 1897,
books were shown side by side with the objects they
related to, and all were freely available to the hands
and eyes of the visitor. In time, of course, that practice
was changed as the number of books reached propor-
tions requiring the discipline of a library. But books
have ever been considered the vital glue of the
collection, since they provide inspiration and make
relationships and comments on a variety of objects
of different categories, and since, insofar as they suc-
cessfully express the various arts incorporated in
their production — from typeface to binding — they
become themselves objects for consideration in a
Acquired with a single-minded purpose, the
Museum's books, archives, and book-related materials
have been chosen for their comment on design and
the decorative arts.
From the splendid books on natural history,
architecture, ornament, interior and landscape design,
decorative arts, textiles, theater, costume, and festi-
vals to auction, trade, and exhibition catalogues, the
Museum offers in its Library and collections a
remarkably concentrated research resource covering
the enormously broad field of the useful arts. Now
a part of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries system,
the Cooper-Hewitt branch continues to be used
heavily by architectural historians and preservationists;
scholars of the decorative arts; designers of textiles,
costumes, and stage sets; interior designers; anti-
quaires: publishers; collectors; and students from
many universities, including those in the Museum's
own master's degree program.
It is a particular delight to have an opportunity
here to share the Museum's treasures from the
Library, as an accompaniment to the exhibition
Timeless Sources: Rare Books of Design. "We are pro-
foundly grateful to Arthur Ross, Council member
and friend of the Museum, for enabling us to produce
this publication. We are delighted also to honor
hereby the memory of Henry Dreyfuss, one of the
fathers of industrial design, and his wife, Doris, who
were generous contributors to the Library and after
whom it has been named.
Illustrated books have been an important part of the
design process since the sixteenth century, when they
were first used as vehicles for the dissemination of
design patterns. Since then, designers, craftsmen,
decorators, architects, and manufacturers have used
books as tools - to advertise their expertise, record
their designs, teach their students, catalogue their
work, and learn about the latest changes in taste and
the development of new techniques. Bound books
of illustrations have a number of advantages ovet loose
prints and drawings: they are easier to transport
and store and, while both prints and books can be
distributed to a wide audience, books allow the
author and publisher to control the sequence of verbal
and visual infotmation.
Design books vary widely in format, price, and
edition. Some of the largest books, and the most
expensive, were published by successful designers.
Eighteenth-century architects such as Robert Adam
and William Chambers seized on the book as a means
to advertise their work to an international
audience of wealthy patrons and artists. Their
books were lavishly illustrated and limited in edition,
functioning in part as status symbols to indicate
the subscribers' wealth and good taste.
Less expensive pattern books and technical
manuals were published for artisans, journeymen, and
apprentices. Pattern books usually contained little
or no text, since their chief function was to supply
craftsmen with a variety of forms or decoration that
could be copied exactly or adapted. Technical
manuals, on the other hand, contain detailed instruc-
tions on such topics as how to build a staircase or
how to mix varnish or dyes.
Publishers also found an audience in amateurs
who wanted ideas for improving their handwork.
Illustrated magazines featuring instructions for
needlework, domestic decoration, and gardening, in
addition to colored illustrations of the latest fashions,
became particularly popular in the nineteenth
For several centuries manufacturers have used
trade catalogues to advertise their wares. Ranging in
size from leaflet to book, these publications are
increasingly relied upon by decorators and designers
for their up-to-date information on the appearance,
color, size, price, and availability of numerous
The historian of design sometimes must rely on
an illustrated book as the only remaining record of
a work of art. Private collections are sold and thus
dispersed, gardens can be lost through neglect, and
buildings altered, destroyed or allowed to deteriorate.
International trade fairs and exhibitions are temporary
constructions, and festivals, holiday events, processions,
and celebrations, with their fireworks, pageantry, and
performances, happen only once. Fortunately, many
such events were recorded and thus commemorated by
producing an illustrated book.
Beginning in 1660 the architect Amedeo di
Castellamonte designed and built the hunting palace
Venaria Reale for Charles Emanuel II, Duke of Savoy
(1634- 1 67 5). It was considered Castellamonte's
most significant achievement, and he published a book
about it in 1672. While little remains of the palace,
which was destroyed by French troops in 1693,
the book has lasted and continues to influence our
assessment of Castellamonte's achievements and
the taste of his time. The volume about the palace and
its gardens features fold-out engravings (figure 2),
two exquisitely decorated title pages (figure 3), and an
imaginary dialogue between Castellamonte and the
architect Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini.
J?//r,- iiit.-ri-.'v ''':.-ll.i .rah ,-oii .vii
2 Amedeo di Casteilamonte. Venaria Reale. Torino; B. Zapatta, 1674.
i Pinrci-c, c tii C ac( la. Idi-alo
. JARLO EM.XNVEL 11 V^tJ
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3 Amedeo di Castellamonte. Venaria Reak. Torino: B. Zapatta, 1674.
J'oiitatnc deO^S^ptwn; et de Jheiu Ibnlmuc Dw Ncpltuii. un^ ^[■l■ Tiicti
4 Residences Memorahles de I' Incomparable Heros de Notre Steele. ..Le
Prince Eugene Frangois. Augsburg: Jeremie Wolff, 173 1 .
Even more extraordinary is the volume Residences
Memorahles de I'lncomparables Heros de Notre Steele
(figure 4), illustrating the Belvedere, belonging to
Prince Eugene of Savoy (1665- 1736), who was
considered to be one of the great military strategists
of his time. In 1704 Prince Eugene, together with the
Duke of Marlborough, defeated the troops of Louis
XIV at the Battle of Blenheim, thus securing Bavaria
for the Hapsburg emperor and saving Vienna from
the French. To commemorate their victory the Duke of
Marlborough was awarded with Blenheim Palace
and Prince Eugene with the Belvedere in Vienna. The
Belvedere, which was designed by Johann Lucas von
Hildebrandt between 1704 and 1725, is famous as the
architect's largest and most ornate garden palace.
Hildebrandt's interior decorations incorporated
numerous military symbols to celebrate the prince's
achievements in battle. The palace provided an opulent
setting for grand entertainments and served as the
prince's summer residence and a place for him to
display his art collection. Although parts of the palace
and garden have been altered over time, the book of
engravings, published in 1731, continues to provide
visual testimony of the prince's taste, power, and
Published catalogues of private collections are
particularly valuable records of the history of taste.
Beginning in the Renaissance and continuing on
into the seventeenth century, cultivated European
gentlemen compiled collections of natural and man-
made objects that they displayed in a room specially
designed for the purpose, a cabinet of curiosities.
In the cabinet of Nicolas Grollier de Serviere (1596-
1689) (figure i) were various small mechanical de-
vices, especially clocks. Grollier de Serviere also
made and collected examples of virtuoso carvings in
ivory, using an ornamental lathe of a kind invented in
Dresden in the early seventeenth century. The globes
were made from a single ball of ivory that was pierced
in over a dozen openings (figure 6). The great com-
5 Albertus Seba. Locupletissimi Reriim Natiimlii/m Thesauri
Accurata Descriptio. Amsterdam: Janssonio Waesbergios,
6 Nicolas Grollier de Serviere.
Reaieil d'Ouvrages Curieux de Mathematiqtie et de Mecanique:
ou, Description du Cabinet de Monsieur Grollier de Serviere.
Paris: Jombert, 175 1.
plexity of form indicates Grollier's level of skill.
Making such ornamental objects was described by the
author, the grandson of Nicolas Grollier de Serviere,
as "noble and agreeable amusement."
A cabinet of curiosities contained both man-
made decorative objects and natural history specimens
because the two were considered to be equally
beautiful and precious. Frequently collectors displayed
specimens arranged in a drawer in an ornamental
pattern, and such rarities as nautilus shells were deco-
rated with carving, precious metals, and jewels.
Examples of such embellishments can be seen in the
collection of Albertus Seba (1665-1736), a Dutch
apothecary and amateur naturalist. Seba was famous
for the collection of natural history specimens that he
sold to Peter the Great of Russia in 1 7 1 7 . He
subsequently made an even larger collection, consid-
ered in his time as the finest in Europe, and described
it in four folio volumes entitled Loci/pletissimi Rerum
Naturalium Thesauri, which he published between
1734 and 1765. In a magnificent frontispiece Seba is
shown surrounded by a display of specimens (figure 5).
Beginning in the Renaissance, numerous pub-
lished works appeared that included illustrations of
the principles of perspective. One of these, Jan
Vredeman de Vries's Perspective (Leiden, 1604), was
intended for "all Painters, Engravers, Sculptors,
Metalworkers, Architects, Designers, Masons, Cabi-
netmakers, Carpenters and all lovers of the arts"
who had to understand the theory of perspective in
order to make sketches of works in the process of
design. In seventy-three engravings Vredeman illus-
trates how to establish the vanishing point into
which all lines in an image converge (figure 7).
While much technical information for designers,
architects, and artists was becoming readily available in
published form, most skills related to the crafts and
design remained closely guarded secrets, taught by
master craftsmen only to their workshop apprentices.
It is in this environment that the Encyclopedie of
Denis Diderot must be viewed. Between 175 i and
1772 Diderot compiled and edited seventeen volumes
of text and eleven volumes of plates for his Encyclopedie,
on Dktionnaire Raisonne des Sciences, des Arts, et des
Metiers. His goal was to publicize mechanical trade se-
crets in the hope that "our descendents, by becoming
better instructed may as a consequence be more
virtuous and happy." Not only did he have to pry
secrets from suspicious craftsmen; he also faced the
constant threat of censorship and even possible im-
prisonment. The articles about politics and religion in
the first volumes of the Encyclopedie were initially
read as challenges to the hierarchical power of the
church and state. Much to Diderot's disgust, his asso-
ciate in the publication, Jean d'Alembert, took it
upon himself to remove potentially offending sections
before they were sent to the typesetter. The scandals
that arose from time to time throughout the publica-
tion's development ultimately enhanced its sales. So
popular was the publication that when Quentin
de la Tour drew Madame de Pompadour's portrait in
1756 she was depicted seated before a table upon
which a volume of the Encyclopedie rests.
The large engravings in the Encyclopedie are
immediately recognizable for the wealth of informa-
7 Jan Vredeman de Vries. Perspective. Leiden, 1615.
tion they provide about technical processes in use
during the eighteenth century, including those
involved in woodworking, ceramics, glassmaking,
metalwork, and upholstering (figure 8). Men and
women are most frequently depicted in the small
workshops that predominated prior to the Industrial
Revolution. Techniques that had formerly been consid-
ered trade secrets are presented as rational, uniform
processes, and most of the workers are shown in an
environment suffused with dignity and calm.
The first volume of Diderot's Encydopedie had two
thousand subscribers. Interest in publications
containing technical information did not slacken with
the completion of Diderot's last volume. In fact,
before Diderot began work on his Encydopedie the
French Royal Academy of Science had begun to plan
its own multi-volume survey of French eighteenth-
century crafts, entitled Description des Arts et Metiers
(1761-1788). Each volume was written by a specialist
in that subject. L'Art du Fabriquant d'Etoffes de Soie
(Paris, 1773-1789) by Jean Paulet offered information
about eighteenth-century silk-weaving techniques
in text and illustrations that surpassed those of
Diderot in accuracy and detail. L'Art du Menuisier
(Paris, 1769-1775) by Andre Roubo included numer-
ous engravings showing the tools and techniques of
woodworking, cabinetmaking, carriage making and
furniture construction. LArt du Plombier et Fontainier
(Paris, 1773) by Claude Mathieu de LaGardette,
featured engraved illustrations that showed how a
copper roof was laid and how fountains were constructed
Only two complete sets of the Description are
known to exist in the United States. Totalling 1 1 3
volumes and covering more than seventy crafts and
trades, it is considered the best source of information
about the techniques in use during the eighteenth
century The Cooper-Hewitt Museum Library is for-
tunate to own fourteen volumes on indigo, cast iron,
8 Denis Diderot, editor. Encydopedie. 011 Dktiotinaire Raisonne des
Sciences, des Arts et des Metiers. Paris: Briasson, 1751-77.
9 Claude Mathieu de LaGardette. L'Art du Plomhier et Fontainier.
Paris: L.F. Delatour, 1773.
glue, plumbing, glass, silk, woodworking, and
Technical encyclopedias on the scale of Diderot's
and the French Royal Academy of Science's were
expensive to produce and were intended for the grow-
ing market of wealthy and well-educated gentlemen
who could afford the cost of such multi-volume works.
These men were expected to be familiar with history,
philosophy, literature, science, technology, and the
arts. They founded learned societies, and they actively
promoted artists and writers.
The enlightened eighteenth-century gentleman
was also expected to travel extensively on the Conti-
nent. The culmination of a Grand Tour was often
an extended visit to Rome to study its ancient monu-
ments and works of art. It was during his stay in
Rome in the 1750s that the Scottish architect Robert
Adam met Giovanni Battista Piranesi, already well
known for the publication of his architectural views
of Rome. The two shared a fascination with antiquity,
and their friendship, and in particular Piranesi's
influence on Robert Adam, is evident in the books
that each published. Piranesi dedicated several of his
volumes to Robert Adam, and subscribed to both
of Adam's major publications - The Ruins of the Palace
of the Emperor Diocletian at Spalatro (1764) and the Works
in Architecture of Robert and James Adam (i-j-iyi-i-jS) —
in addition to engraving four of the plates for the
Works. But more importantly the attitudes toward
ornamentation that Piranesi expressed in his Diverse
Maniere dAdornare i Cammini (1769) influenced
Adam's own style. Piranesi's double folio volume
included engraved designs for chimney pieces, tables,
chairs, vases, and clocks in a heavily ornamented and
thoroughly unique adaptation of the Etruscan and
Egyptian styles (figure 10). Adam was clearly in
agreement with Piranesi's imaginative interpretations,
but his own adaptations were strikingly more
graceful and delicate (figure 11).
10 Giovanni Battista Pitanesi. Diverse Maniere d'Adornare i
Cammtni. Rome: Salomoni, 1769.
1 1 Robert and James Adam. Works 111 Architecture of Robert and James Adam.
London: Priestley & Weale, 1773-1822.
In 1757 Adam set off for Spalatro (now Split in
Yugoslavia) to visit the Roman palace of Diocletian.
Upon his return to England his sketches of the palace
were published in a lavish folio volume entitled
Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian at Spalatro
(1764), a form of self-advertisement allowing him
to proclaim his familiarity with the proportions and
ornamentation of classical architecture. He dedicated
the book to George III, whose reign promised an
"Age of Perfection" similar to that of "Pericles,
Augustus, or the Medicis." Such glowing dedications
were an essential element in the complex business
transactions involved in publishing expensive illus-
trated books. An author usually dedicated his
work in order to win or to repay favors, and in
Adam's case his dedication was a politically-wise
attempt to attract Whig clients.
In order to raise money to publish an expensive
illustrated book the promoter often issued a prospectus
about the proposed work in the hope of attracting
subscribers whose money would pay for the book's
completion. The subscribers' names appeared in a
list at the front of the book, a form of promotion by
association for the author, the publisher, and the
subscribers. A large publication was also likely to be
issued in parts to insure that the publisher did not run
out of money before the work was completed. If the
first volume was well received, the subsequent volumes,
or parts, attracted new subscribers who wanted to be
associated with a successful venture and with the elite
group who had initially subscribed.
Adam was not alone in promoting himself by
publishing a book about his travels to ancient archi-
tectural sites. The architect Robert "Wood produced
Ruins of Palmyra in 1753 and Ruins of Balbec in 1757;
James Stuart and Nicholas Revett brought out
Antiquities of Athens between 1762 and 1830; Charles
Heathcote Tatham published Ancient Ornamental
Architecture in 1799; and Henry William Inwood fol-
lowed with Erechteion of Athens in 1827. Such works
were instrumental in bringing about a change of atti-
tude towards antique ornamentation and architecture,
as patrons, architects, and designers who owned
these volumes learned ro prefer decoration that was
more in keeping with antique proportions and that
was based on actual architectural elements and motifs.
Thomas Hope is an ideal example of the enlight-
ened eighteenth-century patron of the arts. Between
1787 and 1795 he undertook an extensive Grand
Tour to Europe and the Middle East, collecting
antique and contemporary works of art along the way.
Upon his return he bought a house designed by
Robert Adam and proceeded to make it into a show-
piece of the neoclassical style. Hope opened the
house to visitors with proper credentials or letters of
introduction and illustrated it in a volume entitled
Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, published in
1807 (figure 12). In the book, Hope presents his own
designs for furniture and interiors, with a list of the
artists, designers, and publications that were his
sources of inspiration. These included Stuart and Rev-
ett's four-volume work, in addition to volumes by
Piranesi, Robert Adam, and Robert Wood.
Thomas Hope supported the publication of other
significant books of design, in addition to his own,
as a member of the Society of Dilettanti. Founded in
1732 as a club for wealthy gentlemen who had
traveled to Italy, the Society played an immensely
influential role in promoting interest in classical art.
In 1762 the Society published the first volume in
Stuart and Revett's Antiquities, followed over the years
by the works of other architects and designers.
Hope included among his acquaintances an
international group of decorators , architects, and
artists, many of whom he met in Rome. He was prob-
ably aware of the work of Giocondo Albertolli, whose
volumes of engraved neoclassical designs were highly
regarded and whose Miscellanea contains his notable
depictions of eagles, a neoclassical motif favored by
many decorators. Hope's obsession with antiquity, in
12 Thomas Hope. Household Fi/rniliire and Interior Decoration
Executed from Designs by Thomas Hope.
London: Longman, Hurst, Ross & Orme, 1807.
addition to his preference for the outline style of
engraving for book illustration, was shared by John
Flaxman and Charles Percier. The French architect
and designer Charles Percier was responsible for intro-
ducing the new style of archaeological classicism to
France through Recueil des Decorations Interieures. pub-
lished with his associate, Pierre Fontaine, in 1801
and 181 2. Percier and Fontaine became the leading
designers of the Empire style, which rapidly spread
throughout Europe in the wake of Napoleon's armies.
How modern the two sound when they proclaim:
"Amongst all the forms of a chair there are some
which are dictated by the shape of our body, the needs
of convenience... what is there that Art could add.'
It should purify the forms dictated by convenience and
combine them with the simplest of outlines, giving
rise from these natural conditions to ornamental
motifs which would be adapted to the essential form
without ever disguising its nature " While few
furniture-makers chose to copy exactly the uncompro-
misingly antique style of Thomas Hope and Percier
and Fontaine, their work was the basis for a more
comfortable style popularized by such pattern books as
A Collection of Designs for Household Furniture, pub-
lished by George Smith in 1808.
The training required to become a craftsman was
long and rigorous, and illustrated books played an
important part. Apprentices and journeymen had to
demonstrate familiarity with their tools and the
technical aspects of their work, but they also had to
show an ability to adapt and use ornamental designs.
It was common practice from the sixteenth through
the nineteenth century for designers and architects to
adapt engraved ornamental designs found in pattern
books. One of the earliest important furniture pattern
books in the Cooper-Hewitt Museum Library is by
the sixteenth-century French architect and wood-
carver Hugues Sambin. His Oeuvre de la Diversite des
Tertnes, published in 1572, illustrates male and female
busts (figure 13) that were adapted as carved decora-
tion for furniture in France in the sixteenth-century.
The prolific designer and engraver Jean Le Pautre
produced over a thousand plates of ornament in the
seventeenth century, including designs for moldings,
ceilings, chimneypieces, friezes, vases, keys, silver,
and furniture in a style that has been described as
dense, bold, and vigorous (figure 14). His published
work was the major vehicle for spreading French
baroque ornamental design throughout Europe, where
it was studied and adapted by craftsmen and design
students up through the nineteenth century.
The impact of Raphael's ornamental grotesques
affected all areas of the decorative arts. In 1770
the newspaper Mercure de France described his ara-
besque designs for the Loggia at the Vatican as "very
useful for painters, sculptors, architects, goldsmiths,
metal-chasers, lock-smiths, embroiderers, and all
those who, in their work, need decoration for
objects." Two years later his designs were engraved
and published in a book.
The influence of Raphael's work is evident in the
work of Michaelangelo Pergolesi, an eighteenth-
century Italian designer who assisted Robert Adam in
England. Pergolesi's ornamental designs for walls,
furniture, and metalwork were engraved and pub-
lished between 1777 and 1801 and played a major
part in disseminating Adamesque ornament. His book
was studied by numerous architects and designers
who otherwise might never have been familiar with
his designs since his only known completed work
is the interior wall decoration that he executed for
Robert Adam at Syon House.
1 3 Hugues Sambin. Oeuvre de la Diversite des Termes.
Lyon: Jean Durant, 1572.
A., ,r7.T,i /.■ /:!.■„./
14 Jean Le Pautre. Plate from a volume of ornamental engraving. 1630-1682.
For craftsmen and builders who could not afford
such books there were less expensive pattern books
and technical manuals. For example, The Chimney-
Piece-Maker's Daily Assistant by Thomas Milton (Lon-
don, 1766) is a pocket-sized picture book without
text (figures 15 and 16). Each page has a single
engraving of a fireplace. It was a handy guide,
"a treasury of new designs in the antique, modern,
ornamental, and Gothic taste," which meant that it
was a visual catalogue of styles to suit the taste of
any patron. Pattern books such as these allowed crafts-
men to become self-taught decorators without having
to design their own work. This is obviously the
intention of The Joiner and Cabinet Maker's Darling by
John Crunden (London, 1786), which featured
designs for ornamental fretwork. Should there be any
hesitancy on the part of the cabinetmaker, Crunden
added suggested guidelines for the use of each design,
engraved on the same plate with the design: "Frets
proper for tea stands, trays, and fenders."
In the nineteenth century, the major Georgian
pattern books by Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sher-
aton were reprinted, and the books by Thomas Hope
and Percier and Fontaine also continued to be
influential. But new pattern books proliferated as
designers competed for the public's attention in a
"Battle of Styles." No one style supplanted another for
long. When George Smith published A Collection of
Designs for Household Furniture and Interior Decoration in
1808, classicism was in the forefront. By 1826,
when he published The Cabinetmaker's and Upholsterer's
Guide, the Gothic and Louis Quatorze styles supple-
mented the earlier book's emphasis on Grecian, Egyp-
tian, Etruscan, and Roman designs. The Grecian
style was preferred by Petet and Michael Angelo
Nicholson in their important pattern book of 1826,
The Practical Cabinet- Maker, Upholsterer and Complete
Decorator, despite the fact that Richard Brown had
emphasized upholstered furniture that was appeal-
ingly more comfortable in his earlier Rudi?nents of
Drawing Cabinet and Upholstery Furniture, published in
1820 and expanded in 1822. Rudolph Ackermann's
magazine. The Repository of the Arts, the great
barometer of styles between 1808 and 1829, managed
to play no favorites, illustrating examples of all the
styles. New pattetn books continued to appear in
rapid succession. In 1835 Augustus W. N. Pugin's
Gothic Furniture in the Style of the Fifteenth Century was
an attempt to teform the Gothic style, while three
years later Richard Bridgen emphasized the Elizabe-
than style in his Furniture ivith Candelabra. Altogether
the plethora of styles shown in pattetn books resulted in
great stylistic variety and even confusion. Gothic
ornament could be applied to a neoclassical chair shape
without hesitation, and the concern for comfort
meant that upholstered furniture ballooned in size.
Such enthusiasm reached a peak at the Great Exhibi-
tion of 185 I , when manufacturers heaped ornament on
already elaborate furniture forms in honor of the
special occasion. The public's interest in such works
continued unabated if we are to judge from J. B.
Waring's Masterpieces of Industrial Art and Sculpture at
the International Exhibition (1863), which illustrated
the massive decorative objects and furniture presented
the year before.
15 Thomas Milton. The Chimney-Piece-Maker's Daily Assistant.
London: H. Webley, 1766.
J K <>-y T ISJ'JJE CJE, .
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i6 Thomas Milton. The Chimney-Piece-Maker's Daily Assistant.
London: H. Webley, 1766.
Illustrated natural history books have provided
some of the more popular images for decorators and
craftsmen to adapt or copy. Interest in exotic plants
and animals rose in the eighteenth century as an in-
creasing number of travelers brought back specimens
and produced books illustrating and describing
what they had recorded in their field notebooks. An
extraordinary example was published by the Dutch
entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian. The Library is
fortunate to own her book, Surinamische Insecten, one of
the finest illustrated natural history books published.
In 1698 Merian left Amsterdam to spend two years
in the Dutch colony of Surinam, where her daughter
was a missionary. She kept an album in which she
made watercolor drawings recording the insects of the
country. Upon her return to Amsterdam she arranged
to have her drawings engraved, hand-colored, and
published in a lavish folio volume that appeared in
1705. It is considered to be the most magnificent
book on insects produced up to that time because the
illustrations are both accurate and visually pleasing.
The urge to catalogue and describe exotic plants
and animals lead Mark Catesby to America in 1 7 1 2 .
For seven years he traveled through Virginia collecting
botanical specimens, and upon his return to London
he found that his hard work had paid off. A group of
amateur scientists provided the money he needed
to return to America for a more extended trip lasting
from 1722 to 1726. Catesby's enthusiasm for the
subject lead him to overcome his limited artistic abil-
ity and learn the process of engraving in order to
publish the sketches he made during his travels. He
hand colored most of the plates in the book himself.
The resulting magnificent two-volume work. The
Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama
Islands (1729-1743), is the first major illustrated book
about American birds, plants, and animals (figure 17).
During the eighteenth century, collectors built
extraordinary natural history collections. The British
royal family established the Royal Botanic Gardens
at Kew, outside London, described by its designer, the
architect William Chambers, in an illustrated
volume entitled Plans, Elevations, Sections, and Perspec-
tive Views of the Gardens and Buildings at Kew in Surrey
(1763). The influx of so many exotic plants and
animals and the surge of illustrated natural history
publications such as those by Merian and Catesby
inspired the creativity of craftsmen and decorators.
Porcelain painters working for manufactories such
as Meissen, Chelsea, Bow, Bristol, and Swansea copied
or adapted book illustrations to design figurines and
other ceramic pieces.
Robert Thornton's breathtakingly beautiful
Temple of Flora (1799- 1807) appeared just as the natu-
ral history craze was waning. Thornton undertook
to publish a book entitled A New Illustration of the Sex-
ual System of Carolus von Linnaeus, of which Temple of
Flora was the third part, in an attempt to popularize
Linnaeus's system of botanical classification. He
dedicated the book to Queen Charlotte and spared no
money in hiring painters and engravers. Exotic
flowering plants were depicted in romantic settings
with moonlit temples, church towers, and mountains
in the background. Without a doubt Thornton
produced the greatest English colorplate flower book
that exists to this day, but he was financially ruined
by its publication. Before Thornton could complete the
work, the public's interest in botany declined. War
with France meant that bringing plant specimens back
to England from abroad was a risky undertaking,
and George Ill's declining health caused the royal
family's interest in botany to decline. Despite an effort
to recoup his losses through a lottery of the paintings
prepared for Temple of Flora, Thornton lived out the
rest of his life in poverty.
Europeans were fascinated by the Orient, and
designers and craftsmen found travel books about the
East to be particularly useful sources. When Johann
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17 Mark Catesby. The Natural Hutory of Carolina, Florida, and the
Bahama Idandi . London: B. White, 177 1.
Nieuhof, an agent of the Dutch East India Company,
returned from a trade mission to China in 1655,
an illustrated book of his impressions was published in
Amsterdam (figure 18). Lacquered furniture, orna-
mental gardens, and buildings covered with colored
glazed tiles and hung with bells were described and
illustrated. Compared with other travelers' reports,
Nieuhof s was considered to be extremely accurate. It
was quickly translated into French and German,
and its illustrations served for several years as the best
source on Chinese architecture and design. In 172 1
when Fischer von Ehrlach wrote and illustrated
his encyclopedia of world architecture, Entwurff einer
Historischen Architektur, his section on China was
based chiefly on Nieuhof s book.
Travelers to China brought back oriental lac-
quered furniture to Europe during the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries; however, it was extremely
expensive and rare. The publication of John Stalker
and George Parker's Treatise on Japanning and Varnish-
ing in 1688 was an attempt to circumvent the
difficulty in obtaining actual pieces (figure 20). The
book, which was one of the earliest pattern books
for chinoiserie, provided designs and varnish recipes
for decorating furniture to resemble lacquered pieces.
For some of the illustrations Stalker and Parker
copied details from the plates in Nieuhof s earlier
book. The Ladies' Amusement; or, Whole Art of Japanning
Made Easy (London 1762) included over one hundred
colored plates of fanciful ornamental motifs based
on decorative designs by Jean Pillement and others,
along with a text describing the method for japanning
tea trays, small cabinets, and ornamental boxes
(figure 19). Pillement's exotic vignettes, combining
images of pagodas, bells, dragonflies, and birds, were
also copied to great effect in fabric and wallpaper
Rococo decorators made frequent use of the
monkey as a playful decorative device in chinoiserie
ornamentation. One significant example that was
copied was Christopher Huet's suite of drawings
depicting monkeys in costumes, published in the 1740s
as Singeries ou Differentes Actions de la Vie Humaine
Representees par des Singes. Huet's designs were copied
for ceramic decoration as well as for details in
marquetry tabletops and on wall panels.
While the designs in The Ladies' Amusement were
based on imaginary scenes of China, those in books
by other designers and architects were more accurate
attempts at copying Chinese architecture and furni-
ture. In 1757 William Chambers published Designs of
Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines, and
Utensils, based on his sketches made in China during
the 1 740s on behalf of the Swedish East India
Tarlari/chen Qhrnn , of IQi^er Via Ska,
8 Johann Nieuhof. Het Gezantschap der Neerlandtsche Oost-lndische
Compagtiie. Amsterdam: Jacob van Neurs, 1665.
19 Jean Pillement. The Ladies' Amusement; or, Whole Art of
Japanning Made Easy. London: printed for Robert Sayer, 1762.
20 John Stalker and George Parker. A Treatise on Japanning
and Varnishing. Being a Compleat Discovery of Those Arts.
Oxford: printed for, and sold by the authors, 1688.
2 1 Toiletten-Geschenk: ein Jahrhuch fur Damen.
Leipzig: Georg Vosz, 1807.
Company. One suspects that Chambers's memory
might not have been precise and that he probably
altered the buildings somewhat to suit Western taste;
however, the book was one of the first European
attempts to accurately illustrate examples of Chinese
design. Chambers is probably best known for the
pagoda at Kew Gardens, which he designed as part of
an extensive remodeling of the gardens for the royal
family beginning in 1757. When the gardens were
completed in 1763 he published a handsomely illus-
trated folio volume to publicize his accomplishment.
Sadly, the pagoda has long since lost the original
eighty colored roof dragons that are clearly evident in
the engraved illustration for the volume.
A significant number of illustrated books and
magazines were published specifically for amateurs
interested in handwork, of which the largest number
were women. Upper-class women in particular had
the leisure time for handwork and could afford the ex-
pensive materials involved. Typically, women's
handwork, or fancywork as it was sometimes called,
included objects made with beads, shells, feathers,
and various kinds of needlev/ork. Journal fur Fabriken,
Manufakturen , Handlung, Kunst und Mode (Leipzig,
1791-1808) featured information about textiles, with
actual fabric swatches glued into each issue, plus
fashion illustrations and the latest styles in interior
decoration (figure 23). The magazine Penelope (Amster-
dam, 1821-1835) included numerous colored patterns
for making reticules, in addition to other patterns
and floral arrangements to copy in needlework. Simi-
larly Toiletten-Geschenk (Leipzig, 1805-1808) included
needlework patterns, plus illustrations of proper
dress and etiquette (figure 21).
In the nineteenth century the tasteful decoration
of the middle-class home was chiefly the responsibility
of women. Hundreds of do-it-yourself books were
published with such irresistible titles as Household Ele-
gancies and Rustic Adornments for Homes of Taste. They
covered all aspects of housekeeping and interior
design, with emphasis placed on economic and sensi-
ble approaches to the challenges of domestic decora-
tion. The art critic Clarence Cook (1828-1900) even
went so far as to recommend specific New York furni-
ture stores in his book. The House Beautiful (New
Many women had to work for a living, and often
the only respectable work available was sewing or
needlework. Simple Directions in Needle-Work and Cut-
ting Out (Dublin, 1835) was written in the form
of a lesson plan book for teachers in the National Fe-
male Schools of Ireland. Instruction progressed from
hemming, sewing, and seaming to making button
holes, gathers, and tucks, until the student was able
to complete a shirt or knit a sock. At the back of the
book appropriate examples of the work for each lesson
were glued onto separate pages (figure 22). The Work
Woman's Guide (London, 1838), written by "a lady,"
contains "instructions to the inexperienced in cutting
out and completing those articles of wearing apparel
which are usually made at home." Written instruc-
tions are accompanied by simple outline illustrations
at the back of the book.
22 Smple Directions tn Needle-Work and Cutting Out; Intended for the
Use of the National Female Schools of Ireland.
Dublin: printed by William Holden, Hibernia Press Office, 1835.
2^ Journal fur Fabriken . Manufakturen, Handlung, Kunst und Mode,
vol. 10. Leipzig: Voss und Leo, 1796.
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International exhibitions and world fairs were
occasions for designers and manufacturers to exhibit
their best ptoducts, and the Cooper- Hewitt Museum
Library has a large collection of material relating
to such events. These range from souvenir guides and
official catalogues to illustrated folio volumes. The
largest in the collection is Dickinson's Comprehensive
Pictures of the Great Exhibition of i8^i, with chromo-
lithographed views of the interior of Joseph Paxton's
Crystal Palace (figure 24), including scenes of the
exhibition's official opening by Queen Victoria.
The Crystal Palace Exhibition of 185 1 was a
financial success, but it was a great disappointment to
a group of English designers who were involved in
its organization. In the opinion of Henry Cole, Owen
Jones, and Matthew Digby Wyatt, most of the
objects exhibited were woeful examples of the declin-
ing state of design as applied to machine-made
objects (what Cole described as "art manufactures").
The incorporation of good design into the manufac-
turing process had somehow been neglected. Profit
and speed motivated the manufacturer at the expense
of good taste. In an effort to publicize the commercial
value of good design by showing examples of both
well designed and badly designed objects, Henry Cole
initiated The Journal of Design and Manufactures (1849-
1852). It was an extraordinary undertaking. Cole
included fabric swatches and wallpaper samples in
each issue in order to hammer home his argument
that flat and simple patterns should be used for deco-
rating flat surfaces. The magazine was also noteworthy
for illustrating objects that were considered poorly
designed and for aiming succinct, fearless criticism
at the manufacturer. Certain items were described as
"detestable," "vulgar," or "absurd," and the authors
repeatedly expressed such laments as, "It is really
24 Dickinson's Comprehensive Futures of the Great Exhibition oj
185 1. London: Dickinson Bros., 1854.
a pity to see manufacturers devoting time and energy
to the production of rubbish of this kind — " In
turn, throughout the magazine, objects were praised
whose design was considered suitable for their
A further attempt to educate designers was made
by Owen Jones in his Grammar of Ornament (London,
1856), the first systematic historical presentation of
decoration. Aptly titled, the volume contained one
hundred chromolithographed folio plates illustrating
patterns and motifs from many countries and time
periods (figure 25), with over one hundred pages of
text about the assemblage. It has been described as
"one of the greatest monuments of color printing in
the nineteenth century," and was notable for expand-
ing the vocabulary of design to include non-Western
decoration. Owen Jones was primarily responsible
for the work, with the assistance of Matthew Digby
Wyatt and Christopher Dresser, among others. All
three produced other lavishly illustrated volumes
about ornamentation, but none compares in scope,
size, and beauty with The Grammar of Ornament.
In addition to exhibitions and fairs, a major
vehicle for nineteenth-century manufacturers to adver-
tise their products in print was the trade catalogue
or product catalogue, which could vary in format from
an unillustrated price list to folio volumes with
colored illustrations. It could be suggested that
Thomas Chippendale's Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's
Director of 1754 was a prototype of the manufacturer's
trade catalogue, since it was printed to advertise
the products of Chippendale's workshop.
The Cooper-Hewitt Museum Library is fortunate
to own several of the notable trade catalogues pro-
duced by J.L. Mott Iron Works between 1870 and
1907 (figure 26). The firm issued some of the finest
illustrated trade catalogues of ornamental ironwork,
fountains, garden furniture and statuary, weather
vanes, and plumbing supplies for bathrooms and
WttM inrm iriiimiriii^^ l i ' i hFiB S^^mmmwi
25 Owen Jones. The Grammar of Ornament.
London: Day and Son, 1856.
The J. L. MeTT Iron Works, New York.
Decorated Wash Basins.
Design No. 480.
Design No. 485.
Design No. 479.
Design No. 593.
Design No. 544.
Design No. 773.
OvnI. ID X 15 inchOB nutaido tbo I
., 19x15 ..
o overflow. Oval, 17 x U loches outside the flaiiKO, no overflow.
iommoD overflow. " 17 X U " '' " " common overflow.
Round, H incbea, common overflow.
When ordering, eiee ol Baain should be mentioned, also wbetber No Overaow ot Comtuon Overflow.
26 J.L. Mott Iron Works. Catalogue G: Illustrating the
Plumbing and Sanitary Department of the J.L. Mott Iron Works.
New York: E.D. Slater, 1888.
Trade catalogues have proliferated in the twen-
tieth century. Most are pamphlets, a format that is less
expensive to produce than books, allowing the
manufacturer to update the information frequently. As
manufacturers became aware that the way objects
were presented in illustrations had an impact on sales,
increasingly more sophisticated methods were used
in designing trade catalogues. By 19 14, when
W. & J. Sloane offered their new line of cane chairs,
it was considered advantageous to photograph them
in a homelike setting (figure 27).
In the twentieth century, industrial designers
have left their mark on an increasing number of every-
day objects. Henry Dreyfuss was one of the pioneer
American industrial designers who established ergon-
omics as an essential method for designers. "When
the point of contact between the product and the
people becomes a point of friction then the industrial
designer has failed," he declared in his 1955 book.
Designing for People. On the flyleaf of the book he illus-
trated the average male and female figures that he
used as the basis for all his work (figure 28). The
Dreyfuss Archives were presented to the museum in
1973, at the same time that the Doris and Henry
Dreyfuss Memorial Study Center was established to
house the Cooper-Hewitt Library. Dreyfuss's papers
reveal the wide variety of machines and utilitarian
objects he designed, including airplanes, vacuum
cleaners, telephones, and tractors.
Like some of the everyday objects they design,
books by twentieth-century designers tend to be mass
produced, defying the term "rare," which can be
applied to most of the books discussed so far. That
does not detract from the book's good design,
however. The cover and interior layout of Paul Frankl's
Form and Reform bring to mind the elegant style of
his furniture designs, which were described by one
reviewer as "celebrated sky-scraper type of furni-
ture. . .as American and New Yorkish as Fifth Avenue
There are more illustrated books of design
available today than ever before, and, while images are
available to designers from an enormous variety of
sources that dazzle the senses — films, television, and
video — an illustrated book or magazine continues
to offer a personal visual experience that can be
enjoyed without electric gadgets. A book can be
held, it can be examined practically anywhere, and at
a pace that is controlled by the reader. As the pages
of a book are turned, the words and images demand
the reader's involvement. Ultimately, as long as the
book is a convenient and pleasurable package for words
and pictures, it will continue to suit the needs of
DRYAD CANE FURNITURE
DKYAD CANE FURNITURE
27 W &J. Sloane Company. The Dryad Cane Book.
New York: ca. 1914.
28 Henry Dreyfuss. Designing for People .
New York: Simon and Schuster, 1955.
!9 Rudolph Ackermann. A Collection of Colored Engravings of
Furniture. London: Ackermann's Repository of the Arts, 1826
Dance, S. Peter
The Art of Natural History: Animal Illustrators and
Woodstock: Overlook Press, 1978
Friedman, Joan M.
Color Printing in England, 1486-18-/0
New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, 1978
Book Illustrators in Eighteenth-Century England
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975
The History of the Illustrated Book: The Western Tradition
New York: Thames and Hudson, 1981
Victorian Book Design and Color Printing
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972
The Art of Illustration
New York: Rizzoli, 1984
The Illustrator and the Book in England, 1 790- 1914
New York: Oxford University Press, 1976
The Art of the French Illustrated Book, 1 joo- 1914
Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982
The Art of the Plant World: The Work of the
Great Botanical Illustrators
Woodstock: Overlook Press, 198 1
Thomas, Alan G.
Great Books and Book Collectors
New York: Excalibur, 1975
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